Worm Composting: Preparing the Worm Bin

How do you recycle your food waste? Or do you?

If you’ve been sending your veggie scraps, leftover spaghetti and moldy food to the garbage disposal, there’s another option – a worm bin or worm compost.

Worm bins do not smell (as long as you maintain it properly), can reduce your garbage by as much as 20 percent and the fertilizer produced is purely organic, which is great for indoor and outdoor plants.

You can buy a worm composter on Amazon, your local home improvement store or make one yourself from plastic totes. The retail version usually comes with 3 composting bins, and a bottom collection bin for excess  moisture. The bottom bin has a spigot, so you can use the fertilized water or “worm tea” to water your plants. This organic liquid is much better than those that you buy at home improvement stores because you know there isn’t any other chemicals in it, and your plants know too.

The retail version also contains a “starter kit” complete with fibrous bedding (shredded newsprint), core (shredded coconut husks), pumice stone, and detailed instructions how to initially setup your worm bin along with helpful hints to maintain it. The worms must be purchased separately. I highly suggest you purchase the worms from a reputable and local resource. I live in Ohio, so I bought mine from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm in Michigan. Worms arrive LIVE and within a day or two after you order them, DO NOT allow them to sit outside; otherwise, you might have dead worms! These are NOT earthworms, they are RED WRIGGLERS, a smaller breed that help break down your food scraps. Start small, you do not need 3000 worms if you’re just beginning a worm bin. They will MULTIPLY quickly!

Tips before you order your worms:

  • Setup your worm bin first – follow the steps below or the directions included with the worm bin. You may use the worm bin indoors (I have mine in the kitchen) such as in the basement or an attached garage or outdoors if your climate remains temperate year-round. Worms need a consistent temperature between 50 and about 75 degrees (you don’t want them to freeze or burn or become too dry).
  • Be ready to “feed” the worms upon arrival. Worms need about 1/4 pound of food per day to be effective (but less initially when introduced to a new environment).
  • Make sure you are home when the worms are due to arrive.
  • Although instructions say you can add cereal boxes and paper towel rolls to the worm bin, I discovered this is not a good practice if you have the worm bin indoors. Evidently tiny worms are in the cardboard, and you’ll produce gnats if you add the cardboard to the bin (yuck!).

Preparing the first worm bin for the red wrigglers:

1. Layer 1: Soak layers of newspaper (printed is fine, better to use the black and white print rather than the color inserts for the first bin. Squeeze out excess water and lay this in the bottom of the bin (with the holes).

2. Add a mixture of core (included with your worm bin, it’s coconut husk), pumice stone (also included with your worm bin), and either soil, leaves (from yard, but without chemicals) strips of moist newspaper or eggshells. I used paper from my shredder soaked in water for moisture, and egg shells. Worms need moisture to decompose food through their skin because they have no mouths. Note: If you’re adding another bin, you’ll want to leave the holes accessible so they can move upward to the next layer of food and bedding. So omit the layer of newspaper at the bottom.

worm-composter-bedding
The first layer, a mixture of core, pumice stone and shredded paper (moistened). Enough to cover the bottom of the bin.

3. After the bedding is a layer of food. Note: Do not add food until your worms arrive; otherwise, you’ll have bugs flying around! I used some leftover pasta with cabbage and carrots from the frig. It’s best to use food that has been refrigerated or frozen (but defrost first) to reduce infestations of insects that live on the skins of fresh veggies and fruit. Keep the food in a thin layer and put in a different section of the bin.

worm bin composting
Add a layer of food on top of the bedding.

4. Add another layer of moist newsprint, enough to completely cover the inside of the bin. It’s okay for the layers to overlap. Worms do not like light, so they will burrow under the top layer of newspaper. Worms also use the newspaper as food if other food has been decomposed. Hence, worms can survive in this environment for weeks without your food scraps.

worm-bin-setup-step-3
Layer soaked newspaper on top of food scraps.
worm-bin-setup-4
Completely cover the inside of the worm bin with moist newspaper.

Put the lid over the newspaper layer. Now you’re ready to order your worms.

5. Add worms: When your worms arrive, read the instructions for adding them to their new environment. You’ll want to “peel back” the soaked top layer of the newsprint and add the worms here. Cover the worms with the newsprint again and allow them to adapt to their new environment for a couple days undisturbed.

What questions do you have about composting with worms? Ask them below!

#Recycling: Reusing Dryer Sheets

Do you use dryer sheets to soften your clothes and reduce static cling? These are not usually biodegradable, but you can reuse dryer sheets for many other household uses.

Originally posted on RecycleBank.com by Sebrina Zerkus Smith.

Do you use dryer sheets to soften your clothes and reduce static cling? These are not usually biodegradable, but you can reuse these sheets for many other household uses. And if you don’t use dryer sheets, great for you because they can be replaced by using vinegar in the wash or on an old towel in the dryer without clogging your dryer duct.

  • Keep some used dryer sheets in a container in your car for wiping the dashboard. Place one under the driver side seat to give it that new car smell.
  • Use one to smooth your hair and prevent winter fly-aways.
  • Use them for cleaning bug splats from your windshield. Just wet one or more softener sheets and wipe over splats. Wait a couple minutes, wipe again and then flush with water.
  • Use on grill, headlights, side mirrors and any other surfaces.
  • Place used dryer sheets in the bottom of your trash can before you add the new bag, It will absorb any drips or leaks and leave the can smelling fresh. This works especially well if you use paper grocery bags in your can, which tend to leak easily.
  • Place a used dryer sheet near the trashcan at your next barbecue or picnic; it will repel bees and flies. Also, wipe one over your arms and legs to repel mosquitoes.
  • Soften the soles of your feet by soaking your feet in some warm water and rubbing them with a used fabric softener sheet.
  • Place a used fabric softener sheet inside your vacuum bag next time you change it to freshen as you clean.
  • Place them in the rafters of your home to keep spiders and other bugs from nesting.
  • They’re great for removing stuck on foods from your pots and pans. Fill the grimy pan with water and drop the sheet inside. – – Let soak for about an hour and wash as usual.
  • Use old dryer sheets to easily wipe up messes like talcum powder and flour.
  • Use old dryer sheets in the bottom of flowerpots to cover the drainage holes.
  • Stuff them in and around any place that needs freshening like tennis shoes, closets, laundry hampers, luggage and dresser drawers. Tuck one in your pillow and sleep on a fresh scent every night.
  • Use them instead of paper when doing ‘paper piecing’ for quilts. First ironed them smooth, then trace your pattern onto the dryer sheets. They’re lightweight, don’t add bulk to your quilt & they smell great.
  • Use them to remove pet hair from your clothes and furniture.
  • Run a sheet over a piece of thread before you thread the needle when sewing. The thread will glide through the eye and won’t tangle when sewing.
  • Rid your house of unwanted pests. Find any place where pests like mice are entering your house and stuff the hole shut with used sheets.
  • Use them to remove soap scum on your glass shower door, or use to wipe windows when cleaning.
  • Used dryer sheets make great dusting cloths for your wooden furniture.
  • Use just like you would a Swiffer sheet on your floors to pick up dust and pet hair.
  • If your scissors are dull and not cutting as smoothly as they should, wiping them with a used dryer sheet will remedy the problem.

Which of these are you more likely to reuse dryer sheets? I especially like the car uses and removing pet hair from clothes.

Recycle 6 Pack Plastic Rings into Useful Tote

I am looking for directions how to make a bag out of 6 pack plastic rings like those on soda and beer. I know I have seen someone do this, but can’t remember what is used to hold the rings together and how to make the handle.

If you have a link or directions, I’d appreciate it…I will post here so my readers can use it too.

Don’t want have the creative flair to make a recycled craft from plastic soda rings? Then do be kind to animals, and cut through all the circles to prevent turtles and other animals from becoming caught in them or thinking they are food and choking them. See a video here about deformed turtles caught in plastic rings.

In the meantime, I came across a few helpful recycled craft links.

My suggestions for recycled crafts – recycle it, don’t trash it!

My Recycled Bags

Ways to Reuse Plastic Rings from eHow

6 Pack Ring Chandeliers and Snowflakes from Pakit Products

 

DIY #Recycling: Celebrate with Eco Games and Gifts from Upcycling Pioneer TerraCycle

Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching.  Some are planning romantic dates with their longtime sweetheart.  Some are planning to finally ask out their crush at recess.  Regardless of your plans this Valentine’s Day, TerraCycle has sweet ways to celebrate that are good for the planet, good for the wallet and good for you.

While cleaning up trash doesn’t seem like a romantic way to spend the day, you can celebrate the holiday and effect real-world change with special Valentine’s Day items, products and decorations in Trash Tycoon, Facebook’s first upcycling game from Guerillapps and TerraCycle.  In the game, you can clean up trash and upcycle it to fun products like necklaces, Valentine’s Day cards and heart shaped wreaths to send to friends or to decorate your town.  Players’ hearts will swell because Trash Tycoon creates positive social impact by donating 10% of in-game dollars to environmental projects sponsored by CarbonFund.org.

Next, love Mother Earth and your Valentine by making an upcycled necklace out of Kraft Cheese wrappers or chocolate wrappers, just like the necklace in Trash Tycoon!  TerraCycle’s Design Junkies have brought the beaded necklace into the real world with simple, do-it-yourself instructions available for download here: bit.ly/ValentineBraceletDIY.   Whether you make one for that special Valentine or one for each of your friends, recipients will be touched that you took the time to give them a heartfelt, handmade gift.

Finally, Valentine’s Day and candy go together like peas and carrots, but the packaging can be a real heartbreaker.  All those red and pink wrappers left over from sweet treats can be sent to TerraCycle through Mars’ Candy Wrapper Brigade to be recycled and earn money for charity.  Signing up is free and easy at www.terracycle.com.

 

About TerraCycle

TerraCycle, Inc. is an international upcycling and recycling company that takes difficult-to recycle-packaging and turns it into affordable, innovative products.  Founded in 2001, TerraCycle (www.terracycle.com) is the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste. TerraCycle works with more than 30 major brands in the U.S. and around the world to collect used packaging and products that would otherwise be destined for landfills. It repurposes that waste into new, innovative materials and products that are available online and through major retailers. The waste is collected through TerraCycle’s Brigade programs, which are free fundraisers that pay for every piece of waste collected and returned. For information on how to join a TerraCycle Brigade and on purchasing TerraCycle products please visit www.terracycle.com.

Plastic Food Storage Bags Recyclable?

Struggling with cutting down or eliminating reusable plastic? I stopped using plastic wrap a few years ago; however, I still haven’t kicked the reclosable plastic food storage bags.  I often buy the ziplock bags so I can wash and reuse them a few times to maximize their use and reduce waste.

How often do you use reclosable sandwich or freezer storage bags?

Feeling guilty by throwing away plastic storage bags, I only use them when I don’t have another option such as a glass food storage container. So, a package of 25 sandwich bags will last me about a month or two and even a box of 15 quart sized freezer bags will last at least a month or longer if I can wash and reuse them.

But can you recycle reclosable food storage bags?

Answer: Yes!

Where?

Oftentimes grocery stores will have plastic grocery bag recycling bins outside that will also accept clean reclosable plastic bags. Some municipalities will also accept clean food storage bags. Still not sure? Check out this PlasticBagRecycling.org

Comment about your use of plastic food storage bags or someone you know. Do they have other uses besides food? I’d love to share your ideas with my readers!

#Recycling: Electronics and Lightbulbs

Moving and downsizing is a chore and a relief. A chore to sift, sort and figure out where to recycle the things that work or don’t work as well as a relief that those coffee pots, printers, monstrous stereo speakers and all the other miscellaneous electronics and old light bulbs are not going in the trash which eventually wind up in our landfills.

Here’s what my mother and I have sorted out so far – that we’re saving from filling up the local landfill and also where we are recycling/ethically disposing it.

2 automatic coffee makers (probably contains BPA too) –  Environmental Recycling in Bowling Green Ohio (found on Earth911.com)

2 printers (circa 1990s) minus ink cartridges – Environmental Recycling. Best Buy will also accept computer printers and PC peripherals and dispose of them responsibly. Call your local store & ask if they charge a fee.

1 set of monstrous stereo speakers (we are keeping 1 set, once we find the right speaker wires to use) – Best Buy or Environmental Recycling.

3 CFL Lightbulbs – Put them in a plastic bag and drop off at local Lowe’s, Home Depot or hardware store. Look for the CFL recycle bin or ask at the customer service counter. CFL’s do contain a small amount of mercury – you know the type that is found in fish and is a concern for pregnant women and young children. Do you part to reduce the risk of adding more unhealthy mercury levels to our water and landfills.

2 boxes of used VHS tapes – recorded TV movies & shows that we just don’t care to save anymore. Environmental Recycling or Toledo Computer Recycling (check Earth911.com for places closest to your zip code).

Various PC peripherals like keyboards, mouses (mice?), LCD monitor and PC cables – Best Buy and local computer repair shops will disburse these items to the right places for free or a small nominal fee. Call your local store first before you drop them off.

Other electronics and places to recycle:

CD’s and other visual/audio media – If still in good shape and playable consider donating them to your local library, used bookstore (oftentimes you’ll get a store credit), EB Games/GameStop (will also offer you store credit) and check out SecondSpin.com.

Cell Phones – Check with your service provider about returning old cell phones. Oftentimes service providers like Virgin and AT&T will accept older model phones to sell as “refurbished” phones. Also check DigitalTips.org and Cell Phones for Soldiers, which enables service women and men to call home from their overseas duty stations.

Batteries – One time use batteries no longer contain toxic metals, but the casings contain acid, so it’s safe to throw them in your regular trash as long as you put them in sealable plastic bags first. Rechargeable batteries that have lost their charge can be dropped off at designated recycle stations such as Lowe’s and Home Depot or check Call2Recycle.org for other drop-off locations.

 

**Some sources were derived from Family Circle May 2011 magazine.

 

 

 

 

How to Recycle Old VHS Tapes

I”m helping to sort, sift and toss old VHS tapes, books, toys, and so forth from my Mother’s house as she downsizes and moves into a smaller place.

After sorting through dozens of childhood VHS tapes, and half of which I didn’t want to keep since they were taped from various CartoonNetwork shows, TV shows that I just don’t want to keep anymore. So what do I do with them?

I don’t want to just throw them in the trash either.

Here are a few crafty and places to recycle these relics of “old” aka 1980’s & 1990’s from BeGreenMinded.com

Diving For Treasures in Unusual Places

Treasures can be found amongst dumpsters, garbage and curbside trash pickups too, like framed pictures, reusable throw rugs, bed frames, shelving, couches, kitchen tables and more.

I have a knack for finding used boxes whenever I move (and I move often too). Uhaul and moving companies will oftentimes “buy back” used moving boxes and offer them at a reduced price or even free sometimes for those who know to ask. However, I have found the best boxes in recycling dumpsters. Many businesses have a separate dumpster for boxes, and I find both flattened and unflattened boxes.

Other treasures can be found amongst dumpsters, garbage and curbside trash pickups too, like framed pictures, reusable throw rugs, bed frames, shelving, couches, kitchen tables and more. Fine Diving Chicago writes about Tips for Dumpster Diving and all the treasures that can be found in others’ garbage.

Curbside trash alerts are often posted on Yahoo groups’ Freecycle for your community. It’s pitiful that people would rather haul their junk to the curb or the dumpster than call their city’s Salvation Army, Goodwill or other charitable organization to come pick it up for free.

We need to reduce the garbage and landfill, not add to it. So think twice before throwing away something that still has another life some place else.

You Can Recycle or Reuse Jeans, Gift Cards, Cooking Oil and More

Do you have a few things in your possession that you don’t want but don’t want to just throw it in the trash?

I have several expired or used gift cards, holey jeans, broken cell phones, and miscellaneous cables and wires. How do I get rid of them without causing a burden on the environment?

If you look, you will find….it on Earth911.com!

Find how to recycle, reuse or re-purpose those odd things you might have.

Which types of #cardboard packaging are #recyclable?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! The presents have been ripped open, plastic ties undone and the toys have been removed from their plastic and cardboard packaging.

In all that crazy mess of wrapping and packaging which cardboard boxes and paperboard are recyclable and which are not?

If you look at the inside of the cardboard and paperboard packaging, you’ll see there is a difference in color as well as texture of the paperboard.

Here’s a simple way to remember what type of cardboard is recyclable.

Brown and rough like the ground – yes, it’s recyclable. Whether it’s heavy cardboard like those you get from Amazon.com or grandma’s care box, it can be recycled. Be sure to check your city’s recycling program; otherwise, many large grocery store chains will allow you to drop it off with their boxes to be recycled.

White and waxy won’t rub off – no, not recyclable. Unfortunately the wax coating on paperboard packaging cannot be recycled. Flatten these boxes and throw them in with your regular trash pickup.

Also, other things to remember when recycling cardboard and paperboard: flatten all boxes, remove any tape (staples are okay), any boxes with food stains are also not recyclable.

Remember to reduce, reuse and recycle all your cardboard boxes and paperboard packaging from the holidays!